Complete Guide to Marrakesh, Morocco: 10 Things to Do and Reasons to Visit
Marrakesh is one of the most popular and stylish cities in Morocco and with good reason: it’s a wonderful city full of colours, history and culture. If you’re planning a trip there soon, you’re in luck! This complete travel guide to Marrakesh includes the best things to do, where to stay, where to eat and everything else in-between.
Scroll down to find my complete Marrakesh travel guide!
It is said that Marrakesh is one of the most unforgettable destinations to visit in the world. Once you step foot in Marrakesh and see the superb streets and medina walls… that’s it, it’s in your heart forever! If I think about it, I can say that Marrakesh is a city of senses: strong smells from the spices, beautiful colours, the chatter of people making trades in the souks. It can feel frantic and overbearing, but there is nowhere in the world quite like it. Yep, it’s safe to say that I like it a lot.
That being said, let’s what out why Marrakesh is worth a spot on your bucket list.
First of all, why visit Marrakesh?
In case you’re not convinced yet, I have some pretty strong arguments for you. First of all, it’s a city full of history – after all, it’s almost 1.000 years old! Second, you can never truly get bored there. There’s shopping, there’s food tasting and there are beautiful buildings everywhere you look, from palaces to mosques. They have riads (local guesthouses), souks (markets) and hammams (public baths). And let’s not forget about the mint tea served in the local cafes, long walks in lush gardens and the red sandstone walls that gave Marrakech its nickname – the Red City.
Marrakesh is “divided” into two different parts: the traditional, ancient half where the ‘medina’ is (Old City) and the colonial half (Ville Nouvelle). In order to truly understand Marrakesh, you’ll need to visit both sides!
Oh, and is it Marrakech or Marrakesh? To be honest, it doesn’t really matter, as both versions are equally accepted. So, you’ll find both of them used in this article. You know, to keep you on your toes.
Guide to Marrakesh: Top 10 things to do in Marrakech
1 - Explore the medina and Jemaa el Fna Square
The Medina is the name of the old town in Marrakesh and it’s located inside the red sandstone walls. Yes, this is the reason why Marrakech is called the “Red City” or the “Ochre City”! This part of the city is made up of a maze of ancient narrow streets and alleyways and lots of markets, as well as some iconic buildings. If you want to experience authentic Marrakech, this is the first place to add to your itinerary!
Here are some unmissable spots to visit in the heart of the city:
JEMAA EL FNA SQUARE
This is a famous spot, considered to be the heart of the city and one of the best things to do in Marrakesh (think of it as Morocco’s version of Time Square). Jemaa El Fna is a big open square and a UNESCO World Heritage Site where you’ll find snake charmers, food stalls, henna artists, street theatre performances and everything else in-between.
Souks are basically market ensembles found in Morocco where you can find anything you can imagine from spices to colourful carpets, scarves, leather items, hand-carved trinkets and more. And trust me, you HAVE TO visit the souks in order to taste authentic Marrakesh! Let’s be honest, they are impossible to miss. You can find them if you walk north from Jemaa el Fna Square. Some notable souks are:
TIP: Don’t forget about haggling! Sometimes walking away from a sale is the best way to drive down the tourist prices. If you’re looking for a souk tour, I recommend this colourful souks tour.
2 - El Badi Palace
El Badi Palace (Palais el-Badi), literally translating to “The Incomparable”, is both a narcissistic and a… pretty accurate name. This palace dating from the end of the 16th century was once a place of luxury with no less than 300 gold and crystal rooms – Present day, we only have some ruins left of the ceremonial part of the palace complex. But it’s enough to soak in the grandeur of it all! Once you step inside, you’ll find lush gardens and a beautiful pool. I’m pretty sure El Badi will show you just how powerful and opulent Morocco’s old dynasties were.
El Badi Palace entrance fee: 70 Moroccan dirham/person (7.80 US$).
3 - Bahia Palace
If you’re a fan of Islamic architecture or if you want to learn more about Marrakesh’s history while taking some incredible pictures, this is THE place for you! Bahia Palace (roughly translating to “beautiful”) is a 19th-century palace that now hosts the Moroccan Ministry of Cultural Affairs. But, of course, you can visit it – and I strongly advise you do!
This superb place is full of colourful mosaics (you’ll hear me say this a lot all through this article!), intricately painted ceilings and impressive engravings and woodwork and, I kid you not, it was once known as the most luxurious palace in Morocco! While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the gardens and the courtyard as well, they’re very pretty!
Entrance fee: 70 DH/person (7.80 US$).
TIP: If you want to visit Bahia, El Badi and the Saadian Tombs altogether with a professional guide, I recommend this one (entrance fees not included).
4 - Ben Youssef Mosque
Next on our list of impressive buildings in Marrakesh is Ben Youssef Mosque (Medersa Ben Youssef) – the most important mosque in the entire city! It is also the oldest one so yeah, it makes sense. It’s actually a former Islamic/Koran school founded in the 14th century that has recently received a gorgeous renovation. You can admire the outside architecture but also visit the inside to see all the traditional elements, including the old dormitories!
Ben Youssef Mosque entrance fee: 40 Moroccan dirham (4.50 US$).
5 - Jardon Majorelle
No less than 12 acres of lush greenery and flowers (and birds!) make these gardens a true highlight of the city in the Ville Nouvelle part of the city. And because we’re in Morocco, we need a pop of colour to complete the picture – some Art Deco cobalt blue walls, of course, right in the centre of it all.
The gardens, built by a French painter called Jacques Majorelle, are an excellent place to relax and unwind after walking through the city all day. Plus, the Islamic Art Museum of Marrakech is also located here and it’s worth a combined visit.
TIP #1: Make sure you visit this botanical oasis very early in the morning if you want to avoid the crowds. Trust me, there ARE crowds here, all looking for the same thing: the perfect Instagram picture.
TIP #2: If you have the time, you can visit Menara Gardens as well – it’s less crowded but just as gorgeous.
Entrance fee: 70 DH (7.80 US$). The ticket for the garden + museum is 100 DH (around 11 US$). Or you can take this guided tour that includes a Palmeraie camel ride.
6 - Saadian Tombs
This has to be one of the most beautiful mausoleums in the entire world! This is Saadian Sultan Ahmed al Mansour ed-Dahbi’s resting place and a laid-back spot, perfect for some relaxation away from the crowds of tourists.
Just like the palaces I was talking about before, this place is SO luxurious, you can’t even imagine. Think Italian marble, gold, mosaic and any other expensive material you can imagine. You name it and you’ll find it at the tombs. Gorgeous!
Saadian Tombs entrance fee: 70 DH (7.80 US$).
7 - Musée Yves Saint Laurent
Surprised? I thought so! In fact, it’s well known that Yves Saint Laurent loved Marrakesh so much, he even bought the Majorelle Gardens and opened a museum right next to them in 2017. And yes, it showcases exactly what you’re expecting: iconic clothes from the designer’s collections, created over the course of his 40 year-long career. You don’t even need to love fashion to visit it, it’s simply impressive in any way you may look at it. There’s also a cute cafe there, as well as a bookshop, so you might want to check these out as well.
Yves Saint Laurent Museum entrance fee: 100 DH (around 11 US$).
8 - Go shopping
Do I STILL need to say it? I thought it was as obvious as daylight: you simply cannot go to Morocco (and Marrakesh especially) without buying something. Anything! Shopping their style is so unique and their craft is so intricate that it’s hard to not fall in love with their ceramics, rugs or clothes. And don’t even get me started on their handmade leather bags – to die for!
The best place to go for some authentic shopping and haggling is, of course, at the souks in the Old City. Alternatively, you can try the Ensemble Artisanal as well – a small mall with fixed prices.
9 - Go to a spa or hammam
They say nothing compares to taking a bath in a local hammam or spa while you’re in Marrakech. And I must admit, you kinda have to tick this off your bucket list!
But first, what’s a hammam? Well, that’s the Arabic name for a steam bath spa. And just like everything in Morocco, even this term has a long and complex history. In short, hammams were once the only place where locals could take a bath, as private bathrooms were considered to be complete luxuries way back when.
Nowadays, hammams are still everywhere in Morocco, although they’re more developed now: you can choose from luxury ones or public ones which are more traditional. If you choose a public one, you should know that you have to bring your own soap, towel, shampoo and all that jazz, but the entrance fee will be very cheap – 10 DH (1.10 US$), as well as the treatments (a scrub is around 20 DH/2 US$). For the private ones, the entrance can be from 300 to 500 DH (33 to 55 US$) and they offer professional treatments as well such as scrubs and massages.
10 - Grab a bite and drink some mint tea
Marrakesh and Morocco in general are often associated with a strong tea culture – and that is completely true! You’ll find people offering sweet mint tea all over the city and there are also some renowned places where you can experience a classic high tea. One such example is La Mamounia (add it to your list people!).
As for the food… it’s simply incredible and bursting with amazing flavours. Keep reading to find my complete list of must-try dishes while you’re in Marrakesh, as well as some of the best places to grab a bite.
BONUS: Extra things to do in Marrakech, Morocco
In case you have some more time to spare on the streets of Marrakesh, here’s a list of some extra activities and things to see:
- Maison de la Photographie / Museum of Photography – the place to go if you want to admire some vintage Moroccan photography. There are more than 4.500 photos there, the oldest ones dating from around 1870. And yes, you can even buy your favourites if you want! The entrance fee is 50 DH (5.50 US$).
- Miara Cemetery – this is a big Jewish cemetery dating from the 16th century and an excellent place if you want a dose of history. It’s located in the Jewish quarter, which I recommend visiting afterwards!
- Marrakesh Museum – for those looking forward to seeing lots of Moroccan paintings and sculptures.
- Take some time off in a park – from Yves Saint Laurent’s garden near the museum to Jadin el Harti, there are many beautiful green spaces in the city to choose from. The Agdal Garden is a cute choice as well!
- Menara Botanical Gardens – this is a very old one, founded in 1130 AD, and it’s pretty impressive too! The best part is that the entrance is completely free.
- Learn how to cook Moroccan food at Marrakesh Culinary Arts Museum – this awesome museum holds fun 2-hour cooking classes twice a day during which you’ll learn how to make Moroccan and Jewish dishes. The price is around 500 DH (55.50 US$) per class. The entrance fee to the museum (only if you want to explore it) is 40 DH (4.40 US$). Alternatively, you can book this cooking class with a local.
- Musée des Confluences – a superb building in the centre of the old city. Go there to admire the intricate architecture and to sip on a coffee in their cafe – Bacha Coffee House.
- Musée de Mouassine – if you’re lucky enough to visit Marrakesh from October to May, you’ll be pleased to know that this museum organises Moroccan music concerts every Monday and Friday. Otherwise, the museum is worth a visit at least for its beautiful architecture.
- Climb the Atlas Mountains – you can reach the highest point in North Africa departing from Toubkal National Park in the city of Imlil. Only for experienced hikers!
Best Marrakesh tours by type of traveller
I know, Marrakech is exciting. It’s unique. But it’s also full of unmissable activities, so creating the perfect itinerary might feel like a tedious task. So why spend precious time trying to organise everything when you can hire some help instead? And I’m talking about organised tours, of course. With professional guides and transportation included as well. Here are some of my best suggestions:
CITY TOURS & UNIQUE ACTIVITIES:
- 3-Hour Tour with an Expert Guide – if you want to see the highlights of the city quick and easy;
- 3.5-Hour Food Tour and Dinner – for all my foodies out there;
- 3-Hour Colorful Souks Tour – in case you don’t want to get lost inside the numerous souks;
- Marrakech: Classic Ballooning Flight & Optional Camel Ride – if you want to transform your trip to Marrakech into an unforgettable memory;
- Agafay Desert Dinner – for a romantic dinner in the desert;
- Marrakech Quad Bike Experience: Desert and Palmeraie – for those of you looking for a little bit of adventure.
If you’re looking for the best things to do around Marrakech, I got you covered with a selection of some of the most popular day trips:
- Day Trip to Essaouira from Marrakech – a coastal town perfect for beaches, surfing and complete relaxation!
- Ouzoud Waterfalls Full-Day Trip with Boat Ride – one of the most beautiful waterfalls around;
- Atlas Mountains & 5 Valleys Day Tour – visit the 5 different valleys that make the region famous
- Ourika Valley & Atlas Mountains Day Tour – for some proper sightseeing;
- Day Trip to Ouarzazate and Ait Benhaddou – two of Morocco’s most beautiful deserts;
- Berber Villages & 3 Valleys Atlas Mountains Day Trip – an exciting adventure to the Berber settlements of the High Atlas Mountains.
RELATED READ: 8 Best Things To Do in Taghazout, Morocco
Where to stay in Marrakesh
RELATED READ: Where to stay in Marrakesh, Morocco
Prepare to be spoiled for choice, my friends! Although there are plenty of accommodation options in the city, I recommend booking a room in a riad (local guesthouse) if you want an authentic experience while you’re in Marrakech.
The main area where you want to look for your hotel is inside the medina – Marrakech city centre. There are countless options there, from hostels to traditional riads (local guesthouses). Guéliz is another good choice if you’re looking for mid-range hotels located close to the train station. Last but not least, Hivernage is a modern neighbourhood in the Ville Nouvelle part of the city where you’ll find numerous luxury resorts and hotels.
That being said, here are my hand-picked accommodation recommendations in Marrakesh:
SPLURGE. Four Seasons Resort Marrakech
BOUTIQUE HOTEL. Hotel La Maison Arabe
MID-RANGE RIAD. Riad Palais Calipau
BUDGET RIAD. Riad les 2 Portes
HOSTEL. Mosaic Hostel
ENTIRE APARTMENT. Sweet Jacob’s Appartment Gueliz
Best restaurants in Marrakesh and what to eat
Ah, the food of Morocco… simply incredible! Of course, you have to try some traditional dishes while you’re in Marrakesh, there’s no discussion here. Below you will find my list of recommended dishes, as well as the best places to try each of them:
THE most traditional dish of Marrakech by far! This type of food is what made the city so special in Morocco. Tanjia is basically jugged meat (beef or lamb). You can find it served at various street food stalls in the city centre as well as in more luxurious restaurants. “Tanjia” actually means the jug in which the meat is cooked and the traditional method is pretty interesting to know too: in the old times, people would take their “tagine” to the butcher to buy the meat and the proper spices. Then, they would take their jug to the hammam where it was cooked in a furnace – for hours. Meal: done! I recommend going to Mechoui Alley in the medina for a simple yet delicious tagine experience.
SNAIL SOUP / BABBOUCHE
Yes, it’s a white snail soup and it’s pretty good! You can eat it at the street food stalls in Jemaa el Fna square but not many tourists are brave enough to try it!
A traditional type of pie in Marrakech (it’s a Fes original, actually, but let’s not get stuck on these minor details now). It’s made with pastry, pigeon meat, eggs, spices and almonds as well. A must-try! From the street stalls, of course. Alternatively, you can go to Al Fassia.
Chickpea-lentil soup which is usually served for breakfast during Ramadan, but you can also find it in several places around the city all year round. Served in cute tiny bowls! I recommend Cafe Caravan for this one.
I know, I know – it may sound a bit… underwhelming, but the oranges in Morocco are famous all over the world – and with good reason! So it’s a no-brainer to try some fresh orange juice from the food stalls in the old city square, right? Works perfectly as a refreshment while you’re making your way around the city!
Super sweet and super yummy sesame cookies with honey. From the street food stalls, of course. You find these during Ramadan especially.
Some other amazing restaurants that serve a delicious blend of Moroccan and European dishes are El Fenn Riad, Le Marocain at La Mamounia and Atay Cafe Food. And, of course, let’s not forget about Café de la Poste – one of the most famous and beautiful cafes in the city, with superb architecture and delicious French dishes!
TIP: If you want to make sure you’re not missing out on any traditional Marrakech dish, I recommend taking a food tour such as this 3.5-Hour Food Tour and Dinner at the souks during which you’ll get to taste several dishes and find out interesting information from your guide as well! Alternatively, if you want to take it a step further, you can try this Tagine cookery class with a local.
How to get around Marrakesh
Although Marrakech is not that small, it’s really easy to navigate – lucky us, the tourists! You can either walk, rent a scooter or take a bus or taxi.
WALKING. If you choose walking, I recommend having a local SIM card with data so you can have an online connection for Google Maps – very much needed and very useful with the winding streets! Or you can download offline maps – that’s always a good idea.
ALSA BUS. Buses are very affordable – a single ride is around 2 to 5 DH (0.20 to 0.50 US$) and they run from 6 AM to 10 PM. Very convenient!
SCOOTER RENTAL. It’s not a bad idea to rent a scooter or motorcycle while you’re in Marrakech, especially if you’re already experienced riding them. Prices are around 180 DH (18.50 US$) for half a day. You can rent them in the old city centre.
TAXI. Pretty affordable too – their base price is 7 DH and then they charge you 4 DH/km. But please make sure you ask the driver to start the meter when you enter the taxi and be prepared to pay the exact number shown.
Supratours buses are a valid option too if you’re planning on organising some day trips yourself. You can check out their routes and buy your online ticket here.
HOW TO GET FROM THE AIRPORT TO THE CENTRE. You have different options here as well, for all pockets. You can either take a taxi for around 80 to 100 DH (8 to 10 US$). You can try to negotiate the price before starting the ride, though! There’s also an express airport bus that costs 30 DH one-way (3.30 US$). Or you can arrange for a private car transfer beforehand, which you can book online here.
BONUS: My travel tips for visiting Marrakesh
As usual, I couldn’t let you go without offering you some precious travel tips to get you ready! Here’s what you should keep in mind before your trip:
INTERACT WITH YOUR RIGHT HAND.
In Moroccan culture, the left hand is usually considered to be unclean and the right one cleaner, so keep in mind to use your right hand when interacting with the local people (sorry, lefties!).
FRIDAYS ARE HOLY DAYS.
Don’t be surprised to find that some places are closed on Fridays because of this reason.
VISIT DURING THE RIGHT TIMES.
March, April, May, September, October and November are the months when it’s ideal to book your trip. The temperatures are just right (not so hot that you’ll be sweating the entire time).
TAKE RAMADAN INTO CONSIDERATION.
Ramadan is their most important holiday and it takes places during the 9th month in the Muslim calendar. Ramadan is 30 days long and you won’t see any local people eating or drinking during the day then. Plus, some restaurants and other places might have a shorter schedule.
BEWARE OF SCAMS.
It’s common practice in Marrakech and in Morocco in general for locals to insist on inviting you into their shop and offering you mint tea. Although that seems pretty nice and hospitable, you might be “forced” to buy something in return, even if you don’t want it. So it’s best to avoid it! The same thing applies to locals that insist on offering you directions on the street - they almost always ask you for money in return. No, thank you, I have my Google Maps!
Especially as a woman, it’s best to cover yourself - be warned, bare knees and shoulders will have locals gawking at you. Remember that this is a cultural thing, you’re visiting their country and it’s important to be respectful and most importantly, safe.
BE STREET SMART AND SAFE.
Please, please, please - if you are a solo female traveller, be careful and vigilant. The culture towards women in Morocco is very different to the western world. You will meet many people who are incredible, welcoming and polite. However, as a solo western woman you WILL generate a lot of unwanted attention. Be very stern with men who are bothering you and it might be best to avoid walking the medina alone at night. Sadly with these things, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Aaand that’s about everything I had to say in my complete guide to Marrakech! I tried to cover everything I could think of for a perfect trip to the city – from the best things to do to where to stay, what and where to eat, how to get around and everything else in-between. I hope this information was useful to you and I wish you an excellent time in Marrakesh!
If you have big travel plans and you’re planning on heading to other cities in Morocco as well during your trip, I recommend clicking here to read all about my adventures in this wonderful country.